Old habits are hard to break. No one knows this better than retired St. Tammany Parish residents Lou and Betty, married more than 60 years.
Outwardly, Lou was known as a good friend, popular and active in his community. But inwardly, a problem haunted him for most of his marriage. Often and without warning, he flew into extreme fits of verbal rage. Lou always felt ashamed and frustrated after an outburst. Betty felt hurt, helpless and alone. Their friends had no idea.
Over the years, Lou tried getting help through religion or therapists, but nothing worked. When his son tragically took his own life after struggling with depression, the crisis added to Lou’s burden and led him to Volunteers of America. It took a call to our Crisis Response Program for him to finally discover ways to control his rage.
He talked to Suzanne, a licensed social worker with the program, who listened carefully. Suzanne persistently reached out to help the couple, discussing coping skills and encouraging Lou to attend a 12-step program for those with similar challenges. She found him transportation to the meetings. Slowly, Lou learned ways to prevent his escalating anger. He admitted his struggles to others in the program and took responsibility for his actions. And, he discovered the painful truth that he had long suffered from untreated post traumatic stress since his Korean War combat service.
Lou sincerely apologized to Betty for the pain he’d caused over the years. Gradually–with the commitment of Suzanne and group support–Lou’s anger issues have begun to dissolve. Betty says Lou is truly a changed man. “Life is so much better now.”
The Crisis Response Program helps many in St. Tammany cope with behavioral health problems. The goal always is to intervene before a crisis escalates. Our staff is committed to offering hope and real-life solutions. As Lou’s experience shows, it’s never too late, or too early, to ask for help.
Charles is someone you will never meet, yet you have changed his life for the better in so many ways. As a teenager, he was raised in an area where he saw violence, shootings and beatings every day. He was afraid and didn’t feel like he had a lot of choices. He chose to drink and do drugs to make himself numb and feel less afraid. These choices made him love himself less and less. When his mom died, he felt even more unloved and alone. He had nowhere to live, couldn’t hold a job because of his addictions and mental illness and lived most of his life on the street, homeless.
Fortunately, he met Ann, an outreach worker with Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans. Ann goes to meet our most vulnerable community members where they are. She met Charles at a homeless shelter. Within weeks, Charles started making different choices—choices that would change his life forever. A choice to love himself by getting into treatment for his mental illness and his alcohol and drug addictions. A choice to get sober and to continue working on his sobriety—one day at a time.
Now, if you were to see Charles, you wouldn’t find him on the street or in a homeless shelter. He lives in his own one-bedroom apartment because of Ann and our Permanent Supportive Housing Program. You’ll find him with a smile on his face and hope in his eyes. He even stands a little taller. That’s what you made happen with your help and support.
You and others like you in our community help us close our funding gap so we can provide needed resources like Ann to provide the care and support individuals like Charles need.
Christopher has deep blue eyes, honesty, humility, and tenacity for animal care that drives him to pursue a career as a Veterinary Technician. His determination is strong as he works to overcome the challenges that are inherent in his developmental disability known as Asperger’s syndrome, which falls on the Autism spectrum.
Individuals like Christopher often display characteristics such as loyalty and highly specified interests. Other common presentations include social challenges or difficulty with time-management. However, with proper support, these individuals can better utilize their strengths to achieve high degrees of success. Christopher receives assistance through Volunteers of America’s Supported Living Services Program and now, at age 24, he is on his way to achieving his dream of becoming a Veterinary Technician.
The relationship began in 2008 when he was a junior at Riverdale High School. At the time his Direct Support Professional, Christy Chachere, worked with him side by side. In the classroom she was there to help him understand the material and take notes. But as time progressed, Christopher took the initiative to take notes on his own—incredibly, he is a student who actually wants to take notes! To balance the work load, Christopher and Christy also do fun things together such as go to lunch or the movies.
Animal care is of course, more than just textbook analysis, so this summer, to gain practical skills Christopher volunteered at the Metairie Small Animal Hospital and felt at home in that environment. But despite the progression, the school work is extremely challenging therefore, this semester Christopher has enrolled in a time-management course, which can be especially helpful for individuals with this developmental disability. Now, Christopher is pushing forward and taking on his biggest challenge to date…mastering Microbiology!
Career preparedness is an incredibly important part of our society, and Volunteers of America is proud to be a part of Christopher’s journey toward gaining competences in this highly valued field of work. With the proper support systems, such as those provided by the Supportive Living Services program, individuals can harness the power of their strengths to reach their dreams.
Christopher’s previous facilitator, Latasha Marshall, said that he “opened her eyes,” to her own vision and inspired her to purse her goal of attaining a Masters of Business Administration degree, of which she is now engaged!
His next business card should read: Christopher Chilton—inspiring people, helping animals.
2015 has arrived, and no doubt you’ve made ambitious plans for the year to come. We know you’re going to be awesome this year! But, chances are, you were great in 2014 too! Did you, or someone you know, volunteer with us last year? Tell us about the experience. Write in with your story (or someone else’s) and we could feature you on our blog!
1) You’re a super hero! No matter how you helped, you have positively affected someone’s life.
2) Share the wealth! Your story will inspire others to do the same. Be an inspiration in 2015!
3) We all want to be happier and healthier! Studies have shone that volunteering increases your social, physical and mental capital, while it could also have positive implications for your career. Oh, and it’s fun and fulfilling.
4) Just taking the time to write the story will bring back all those good feelings! It will be almost as good as the real thing.
Email your story any time to firstname.lastname@example.org. Happy New Year!
P.S. Already feeling inspired to start doing good in the New Year?
Check out our website for opportunities as well as info on how to choose the best experience for YOU!
*If you’re a tad timid about sharing your personal story, no worries, Clark (or Clarissa) Kent! We’ll keep your true identity a secret upon request.
Ms. Earnestine (pictured left), a 56-year old client in our Supportive Housing Program, has been searching for an opportunity to increase her reading skills. While adult reading programs in her area were unable to assist, her case manager and the director of the local Volunteers of America RSVP program developed a plan to help. Meet Ms. Joyce, an RSVP volunteer, who enjoys mentoring children in reading at Lyons Elementary. She jumped at the opportunity to help Ms. Earnestine!
Once a week, Ms. Earnestine and Ms. Joyce meet in the Volunteers of America office to work on reading skills. The two have not only served as teacher and student but also have become friends. They enjoy working together and look forward to their reading time each week. Through the efforts of Ms. Joyce, Ms. Earnestine’s outlook on life has improved as she obtains a goal that at one time seemed impossible to reach.
Terrell is a native of New Orleans. He proudly graduated from McDonough 42. While in high school Terrell always wanted to play football, but was not able to make the team due to having a mild intellectual disability and a hearing impairment. After graduation, he started working odd jobs. His mother moved to Mississippi and his father is not home much due to his occupation as a truck driver. Terrell’s family life lacked structure and he began to get mixed up in the wrong crowd. Although he knew better, he did not have the support of his family he needed with his disability.
In 2003, Terrell’s father found out about Volunteers of America’s Community Living Services Program, which provides community homes to adults and children with intellectual and physical disabilities. Terrell moved into the Gayoso Community home and instantly adapted to his new home and family. Not only has Terrell adapted, but he has thrived at the Gayoso Community Home!
He has his own room, daily chores and thinks of the other residents and the staff as his family. He found a job at a local McDonald’s cleaning the dining room, taking out trash and keeping the drink machines full of ice. He’s a hard worker and proud of his job. Terrell says that some of the regular customers give him tips because they are so impressed with his work ethic and his kind demeanor. Having a job at McDonald’s enables Terrell to feel good about himself, and to save money for his own place one day. He would love to get married and have a family one day.
In addition to the Community Living Services Program providing Terrell with a home, he has been able to achieve his life-long dream of being an athlete! He is a Special Olympics champion in volleyball, basketball and baseball. He was even invited to the National Special Olympics competition in Nebraska one year to complete in basketball. Terrell is very proud of his medals and looks forward to competing in the Special Olympics every year.
Terrell is just one example of the many lives being changed at Volunteers of America everyday. He is very happy at the Volunteers of America Gayoso Community home and appreciates everything Volunteers of America has helped him achieve.
Wilson is a man of few words, but do not underestimate him. He remembers the exact date of every significant day in his life. And if you tell him the date and year of your birthday, he can tell you what day of the week you were born. He loves to study maps and brochures from places all over the world and can estimate the distance between two points without even looking at a map. But despite his intelligence, Wilson’s disabilities, including Autism, Epilepsy, and Type 2 Diabetes, make it difficult for him to complete everyday tasks and interact in a normal social setting.
Wilson was born and raised in Metairie. His mother was a teacher and his father worked for a bus company, which may explain part of his penchant for maps. He attended St. Martin High School and Furman University in South Carolina. After college he moved back in with his parents, but like many young adults, wanted to live independently. However, Wilson needed assistance to make that possible.
Since 2008, Wilson has been living on his own with the help of Volunteers of America Supported Living Services. Wilson’s Personal Care Assistant, Courtney, spends a few hours with him almost everyday. She makes sure he gets to work on time, helps him grocery shop, and cooks him dinner. They also go on outings, often to the gym or a new restaurant, because unsurprisingly, Wilson likes to collect menus as well. Wilson thinks Courtney is wonderful.
Wilson has excelled with Supported Living Services. He appreciates all of Courtney’s help, especially since it allows him to be independent and support himself with a job. Recently, he received the 10 years of service award from P.F.Changs, where he works every morning. This is quite an accomplishment and a testament to his hard work. Although to be fair, Courtney deserves some recognition as well. She often calls him on nights before he has to work to remind him to go to bed because she knows he would sit up all night reading brochures.
With only 4 more days in the competition we have 975 votes. Help us finish strong and get us across the 1,000 votes line! Remember, every vote represents an opportunity to positively impact the life of a veteran who needs a 2nd chance.
Vote today and share it on your Facebook wall. Click here to vote!
We have 11 days remaining in the competition and we need to keep the energy up!!!
You can help by encouraging your friends and family to participate! It starts by logging into Facebook everyday and voting. Once you’re done voting, click the red box that says “Post on Facebook.” That will allow your Facebook followers to see that you’re helping a great organization and how they can join in the effort.
Think about what the $25,000 will mean – the first safe, stable place for a Veteran who has been homeless for months or longer to sleep; the security of knowing that you can count on 3 meals a day; the hope that a Veteran who has done so much for our country then lost their way can get back on their feet again. This competition is a way to change someone’s life and all of us can play a part in making this opportunity happen.
Have you voted to help our nation’s heroes today?
It’s the beginning of week 2 in our challenge to win the most votes in The Home Depot Foundation’s Aprons in Action campaign to win $25,000 for our Veterans Services Program but we NEED YOUR HELP!
With only 19 days left to vote, we need all of our supporters to log on to Facebook and vote for Volunteers of America Greater New Orleans in the Aprons in Action competition. Vote once a day, every day, and tell your friends to join in, too. Please share this posting on your Facebook timeline! With these funds we will be able to help veterans find a stable job, get back on their feet and be proud of who they are!